Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Small Kindness But Hardly An Angel

This past Monday I was up and on the road before the sun in order to transact a bit of business.  The business requiring transacting was completed in one hour’s time, which made the three hours drive time required to arrive at the destination where the business needed transacting rather an inconvenience.

When I jumped in my truck to return home, I decided to motor some secondary roads towards home rather than the freeway, just in case I stumbled on a used book store I wasn’t aware of, or a roadside sale or two.

As I motored a secondary road outside of Lake City, MI, about an hour and a half in to my return, I came upon a car pulled over on the side of the road, about halfway between Lake City and Cadillac, MI, its driver’s side front wheel quite askew.  Just as I was going to swing wide around the vehicle and pass it by, an older gentleman exited the car, so I thought I should pull over, and did so.

After switching on my flashers, I exited the truck and walked back to the disabled vehicle, and asked the older gentleman if I could help in some way.  The gentleman, Lyle was his name, informed me he was taking his wife, Nora, who remained in the vehicle, to the emergency room in Cadillac.  So I asked Lyle if he had any assistance on the way.  Lyle replied in the affirmative, his daughter was driving up from Reed City, MI, but she was at least one half hour away.

I immediately offered to load both Lyle and Nora into my truck and run them to the hospital, and then arrange to have Lyle’s car towed to whatever shop he desired.  Lyle discussed my offer briefly with Nora, and then asked if I would just take Nora to the hospital while he waited for his daughter to arrive, as he was concerned that she would become overly worried if neither Lyle or Nora were with the car when she arrived on the scene.

I readily assented to Lyle’s wishes, and we assisted Nora from his car to my truck.  Just prior to heading Nora to the hospital, I gave Lyle a card with my name, phone number and address on it, and wrote down his cell number, so I could report to him that Nora had arrived at the emegency room safely.

It took about 15 minutes to drive to the hospital, where I escorted Nora inside, and ensured she was put in the correct hands.  I then quickly headed back out to my truck to call Lyle.  As I picked up my phone to dial Lyle’s number, I decided instead to backtrack to Lyle and the disabled car to deliver the message in person, and to see if his daughter or other assistance had arrived.

When I arrived at Lyle’s location, I saw that indeed assistance had arrived, in the form of a Michigan State trooper, and that Lyle was talking with trooper.  I swung the truck around, pulled up behind Lyle and the trooper, exited my truck, told Lyle that Nora had been safely deposited at the emergency room and asked if I could do anything else for him.  Lyle politely declined and thanked me for my help, so we shook hands and parted ways, and I thought nothing more of this.

Just a few minutes ago, I went and grabbed today’s mail, and in the box, much to my surprise, is a lavender colored envelope addressed to me.  I open the envelope and pull out a thank you card from Lyle and Nora with these words written on the inside.

Your kindness was that of an Angel from God.  We thank you so very much for all you did.  I am doing well, and our car was fixed that evening.  Thank you so very much.

I was so touched to read those words that tears trickled from the corner of my eyes, because I fully realize that I am hardly an angel.

Posted by John Venlet on 07/14 at 12:10 PM
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David Brooks Explains the Why of “The Follower Problem”

Just one month and three days ago, on June 11, 2012, David Brooks was complaining in the New York Times that Americans are not sheep like enough in an op-ed titled The Follower Problem, chastising us mere American citizens for our lack of respect for our so-called leaders with words such as these.

I don’t know if America has a leadership problem; it certainly has a followership problem. Vast majorities of Americans don’t trust their institutions. That’s not mostly because our institutions perform much worse than they did in 1925 and 1955, when they were widely trusted. It’s mostly because more people are cynical and like to pretend that they are better than everything else around them. Vanity has more to do with rising distrust than anything else…

To have good leaders you have to have good followers — able to recognize just authority, admire it, be grateful for it and emulate it. Those skills are required for good monument building, too. (bold by ed.)

While on June 11, 2012 Brooks did not seem to know, let alone understand, if America had a leadership problem, on July 12, 2012 Brooks appears to have had an epiphany that America indeed does have a leadership problem, and states so in another New York Times op-ed titled Why Our Elites Stink.

Yet, as this meritocratic elite has taken over institutions, trust in them has plummeted. It’s not even clear that the brainy elite is doing a better job of running them than the old boys’ network. Would we say that Wall Street is working better now than it did 60 years ago? Or government? The system is more just, but the outcomes are mixed. The meritocracy has not fulfilled its promise.

Brooks had it backwards in his op-ed The Follower Problem, putting the cart before the horse when he states, “To have good leaders you have to have good followers…”  No.  To have good followers, you must have good leaders, whether they are elite, or not.  Brooks is part of the elite problem himself.

Posted by John Venlet on 07/14 at 08:43 AM
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